Audio

The Himalayas – My first original composition from 2001

In 2000, I was studying at the University of Wisconsin. It was the era of Napsters and AOL. High-Speed Internet via DSL was new. In Madison, a small company, Sound Forge, made professional audio and video editing software. As a student, I had access to the software at lower prices. I ended up purchasing Sound Forge, Acid, and Vegas from them. That started my foray into composing my own music.

Acid primarily helped me edit and arrange the music I was putting together. After getting familiar with the tool, I purchased the loops, which were used to stitch it together. Acid also has a very powerful editor as well as looping features to fine-tune what you want to do. There was one hiccup, I needed to create some underlying pieces to put the whole thing together. That’s when I came across another tool – Magix. It is essentially a MIDI editor that can be used to create the pieces you wanted. I was not at all familiar with tablature or writing sheet music back then, so I used my ear. I had to learn MIDI). With these two tools, I was able to put many pieces together. Using my old IBM Thinkpad running Windows ME (yes, I had that version). Here is one of the first pieces of music I composed and arranged.

It is called The Himalayas. When I was working on it in 2001, I was thinking of mountains – tall and majestic; the sounds I used and created reminded me of them. The highest mountain range in the world. The place where the temperatures drop way below what humans can endure. Survival becomes a challenge, yet life sustains under such harsh conditions. Take a deep breath and join on a ride that traverses through the Great Himalayan Range and appreciates the sheer geographic diversity – from the verdant, forested valleys to the tropical jungles. Welcome to the roof of the world.

 

ACID is an incredibly powerful tool that can help you create pieces of music that are truly unique. You’ll be able to experiment with different sounds and effects to create a soundscape that is unlike anything else out there.

JPS Nagi
Sept. 16, 2022

Picking Your Next Guitar – Choosing Woods (Part 2 of 3)

Timber is essentially the xylem of a tree – cells that transport water and minerals from the roots to the leaves. The structure of these cells has a direct impact on the hardness, density, and weight of the resultant wood. Different species of tree will have different growth patterns which will in turn result in timber with different acoustic properties.

For example, Sitka spruce trees have straight trunks with relatively few branches. The grain is tight and even, resulting in light and stiff timber – perfect for building guitar tops! On the other hand, mahogany trees have a more irregular growth pattern, resulting in timber that is heavier and has a more open grain structure. This makes it less suitable for guitar tops but perfect for constructing the bodies and necks of instruments.

Different timbers will produce different tones when used in construction. For example, instruments built with cedar tops tend to have a warmer sound whereas those built with spruce tend to be brighter. Ultimately, it’s up to the builder (or player) to decide which sonic characteristics are most desirable. Some timbers are better at absorbing low frequencies than others. This means that if you want your guitar to have a warm, rich sound, you should look for timber with good low-frequency absorption. Other timbers are better at reflecting high frequencies, giving your guitar a brighter, crisper sound.

Here is a great example of Breedlove Guitars infographic on tone and frequency response for various kinds of wood.

The table below reveals how different aspects of wood manifest themselves with tone.

Property Impact On Sound
Density The absorption of energy from strings is affected by density and type. “Denser” woods like basswood will absorb more than lighter ones, but still not as much so that you can escape its sound completely even with light gauge instruments such as flute or clarinet; however if playing in dense timbers it may be best to take up your options earlier since this timber does provide less “resistance” which means stronger influence came directly out wood itself rather then being absorbed first before reaching our ears via microphone.
In general, harder woods are more absorbent and thus produce a brighter-sounding mid-range with quicker decay. Mahogany is an example of this trend as it has very little density compared to other species such that vibration ends up being easily dissipated through its fibers making them warmer on audio systems rather than harsh like harder juniper trees might be perceived at first glance when listening without context or knowledge about how different kinds affect tone.
Hardness Hardness is an essential component of a guitar’s sound. The higher the frequencies, the harder and more brittle the material seems to be on its surface – this accentuates those notes by making them stand out from other instruments in comparison with your voice or keyboard playing for instance!
As you can imagine there isn’t always agreement among musicians about what exactly “hard” means so we’ll just go ahead & say that these two terms refer differently when talking physics-related stuff here at Guitar Center.
Flexible Strength Spruce, has been found by scientists and musicians alike as being one the most commonly used tonewoods for violins because it produces clearer audio with greater volume than other woods such as cedar or redwood does; making them more popular among professionals who need those qualities while performing on stage
In order words: Stronger flexible timbers receive energy from strings producing a wide dynamic range–great clarity & projection

When choosing the right timber for your guitar, it’s important to keep in mind what sound you’re trying to achieve. If you’re not sure what sound you want, we recommend trying out a few different types of timber until you find one that you like. Here are a few of my favorite timbers for building guitars.

Spruce:
Easily the most commonly used top wood for acoustic guitars and classical guitars. When compared to Cedar (another commonly used soundboard timber), spruce is lighter and possesses greater flexible strength resulting in a wider dynamic range and bright, responsive tone.

Cedar:
Cedar (a member of the Mahogany family, sometimes referred to as Indian Mahogany) is a softer wood than spruce and as a result produces a warm tone, darker, and more complex sounding in comparison.

Walnut:
A medium-density tonewood. Walnut produces a warm, airy, woody tone similar to African mahogany with fewer overtones and more of a focus on the prominent mid-tones. It has a very even dynamic range, meaning it doesn’t accentuate one frequency band over another, resulting in a very balanced sound.

Mahogany:
Mahogany is a great all-rounder when it comes to acoustic properties. It has good low-frequency absorption and good high-frequency reflection, which gives it a warm, balanced sound. Mahogany is also relatively soft, which makes it easy to work with.

Maple:
Maple is another great all-rounder, but it tends to lean more towards the brighter side of the spectrum. Maple has good high-frequency reflection and fair low-frequency absorption. This gives it a crisp, clear sound that is great for all styles of music.

Rosewood:
Rosewood is one of the most popular choices for guitar builders thanks to its rich, full sound. Rosewood has excellent low-frequency absorption and good high-frequency reflection. This makes it great for genres like blues and jazz where a warm, resonant tone is desired.

There are many different types of timber available for use in guitar construction, and each type has its own unique set of acoustic properties. Most hardwoods are unsuitable for soundboard construction. The density of the wood requires too much energy to resonate and has a dull-sounding box, except for Mahogany. Softwoods are not suitable either because they simply wouldn’t have the strength to handle the tension from the guitar’s strings, except for Spruce which is commonly used for acoustic guitar soundboard. The woods used in the construction of the neck, the back, and the sides contribute to the sound of the guitar.

When choosing the right timber for your guitar, it’s important to keep in mind what sound you’re trying to achieve. Set some time aside, play as many guitars as you can, and always trust your ear!

JPS Nagi
Sept. 13, 2022

Chasing Stars

A few years ago, my family and I were visiting our parents in India. My increasing birthdays have made me appreciate them more and more. I feel there is so much I can still learn from him.

Sitting down with them, I was telling them about my friends I was in touch with, and asking them about ones I was not (and they were). The conversation went on to what everyone is doing and I made a comment “I wonder if I will ever be successful like him or her”.

My father smiled, and in his wisdom-drenched voice, asked me, “How do you define success?” I was quick to reply and pointed to him how successful they were in their career. He smiled and asked, “And?”. I immediately knew the class is in session with Mr. retired Professor. Here is a bit of paraphrasing of what he taught me that day.

He started with what his father, whom he called “Bhaiya ji” fondly, used to say.
He said that “Bhaiya ji” would say that the greatest gift a person gets is being able to wake up in the morning because that is another day they are alive. So have gratitude for that. There are some who never wake up. 

Even more blessed are those who have good health. If you are healthy, can get up, walk around, be thankful. There are many who cannot do that. 

If you have two hands, be even more grateful, for you can earn your living with those two hands. There are some who will love to be in your position. 

Blessed are those who can earn for themselves and even more blessed are the ones who can ear for their families and provide for them.

And the most blessed are the ones who wake up, are healthy, can earn living for their loved ones and most of all can help others. Only a few can do that – not because they are not capable, but they do not have the courage to do so.

I was patiently listening to him. Then he asked the question, “What is this success you talk about? Money? Fame? Position? Power?”
He paused. “For what? Look closer at everyone who you consider successful, you will see that it is not that picture-perfect you make it to be. If they are successful in their career, their personal lives suffer. If they are successful in their personal lives, their career suffer. If they are doing it all, they themselves suffer, personally, health-wise. What good is success in one area when you cannot manage other aspects of your life?”

By this time, I knew it was time to just listen and collect these pearls of wisdom.

“In your life, you will have to manage your relationships, kids, yourself, career, relatives, friends. If you put more energy into one, others will get affected. If you try to do it all, you, yourself will be affected. You have to balance. Sometimes when you do everything, even then, life throws a googly (cricketing term for the uninitiated, it means a curveball). The western world calls it work-life balance. Try to give everyone the time they deserve, and be grateful for what you have and where you are. You want happiness, go help someone, that is the happiness that nothing else will  bring. And don’t stress about folks around you; you are plenty successful. Indians believe in destiny and no one can take that from you”.

“Go be a world for someone than being no one to the whole world.
And never lose yourself chasing the stars, be grateful about seeing them tonight. They will come back for you the next night”.


JPS Nagi
April 17, 2021

A Father’s Day

On August 16, 1992, my father helped me initiate the next phase of my journey in life.

It was my birthday, and we were traveling from Amritsar to Chandigarh with my cousin, Jasjeet, and his dad. I bid farewell to my mother and got in the car. The monsoon season in north India our journey wet throughout. I remember excited to be going somewhere new, a bit afraid to be away from folks I have lived with thus far. A month earlier, my father had helped me decide to go to PEC, Chandigarh instead of Delhi where Delhi College of Engineering had a “drug problem” as he put it.

As we reached my engineering school that would be my home for the next 4 years, our fathers helped us settle to our assigned room – room #238. I heard a lot of commotion and stepped out in the corridor. All the rooms were being filled in, some boys had parents with them, others on their own. I met a skinny guy next door, with his parents. That was Ajju. Further down there were three boys from Bathinda – Pompy, Numi, and Deepu.

Then, I realized, my father wasn’t around. As we locked the door and walked downstairs, I saw my dad standing half-way in a door, of a small room. As I walked closer, I realized it was the hostel warden. I saw my dad was tipping him (a practice fairly common in India, at least back then). He saw me and introduced me to the warden, who said, “Don’t worry, son. You will be fine”. Then he walked to another room down the hall, which was labeled “Phone room”. A short guy was sitting next to the landline (we didn’t have cell phones back then), our phone attendant. He asked him the hours when he is on duty, noted them on a piece of paper, placed it in his pocket, and tipped him too.

A couple of hours later, both my cousin’s dad and my father were ready to leave to travel back home. My dad gave me a hug and told me that he will call me every day when I return to the hostel after my classes. All I said with teary eyes was “OK”.

28 years later, as I am writing this, I have to say, he has kept his promise. My father (and my mother) have called me every day since, wherever I am in the world. I cannot recall a single day that they haven’t tried to reach me. The cell phones (and my family) have made it easier to find me. They still call me.

Now, I am in the same stage in life when my daughter is getting ready to embark on a similar journey of her life. And I hope I can do the same.

Happy Father’s Day, indeed.


JPS Nagi
June 21, 2020

Prologue

I was never exposed to Dungeons & Dragons while growing up in India. During my later years, as I came to know about it, I have always been fascinated by the game that plays in your mind. After a few discussions during lunch and expressing my curiosity, one of my friends at work decided to set up an introductory D&D session for me. He even created my playable character for me after talking to me and we met after work.
That was last September and I loved it. At present, I am playing in two campaigns. I tend to take very detailed notes and so I decided to write one of the incidents that happened a month back in one of my campaigns. Although it is not the beginning, I am calling it “Prologue” (that may change later).

I do not claim that the story is mine, but it is how it played in my mind. The dialogs are how I heard them and the scenery is how I saw it. It is my retelling of how it went down. I hope my interest stays and I bring more stories like this.

I give you … Prologue …


Prologue

Grommish looks at everyone and speaks in his guttural voice, “I am going to approach the house. You guys should hang back. I do not want to scare the parents”.

Everyone nods except Yolanda, who seems to be annoyed. She grimaces at the suggestion and looks at Grommish, “I will come with you. Last time we talked to them, I was there”.

Fine. But no threats this time. And I will do the talking”. Grommish stares at Yolanda with his piercing orc eyes. “Are we in agreement, Yolanda?

She shrugs and gives a slight nod. Grommish starts walking towards the house and Yolanda follows him.

The rest of their company hangs back from the farmer’s home. The golden glow of the dusk sky gives a strange shade to the already harvested fields. It is a small and humble home made of raw clay bricks that give the house its shade. There are small colored decorations on the house in a darker hue along with some handprints around the outer wall. An old door made from oak wood adorns the house. The roof seems to need a new thatch and a small lantern is hanging on the side of the front of the door. A small paddy field extends around the house on the right and transforms into a vegetable garden behind it.

Carna feels a strange eeriness in the air, now that they were closer to the town.

The town is aptly named Hopeless Fancy. The air is evil. I feel the hope is being drained out of me”, Carna says looking at the rest of them. Everyone seems to agree. Kalyn nods but keeps looking around, scouting the area.

Would you give it a rest, my dear man. This is a poor farmer’s home”, Carna says.

Hey, I can’t help it. This is what I do best” replies Kalyn with a smirk on his face.

Everyone turns their head towards the house, as they hear Grommish knock on the door in a friendly manner. A middle-aged woman opens the door. She is wearing simple lighter colored clothes which have seen some seasons. They can’t hear what they are talking from this distance, but it seems that the orc and the halfling are known to the woman. She seems friendly to them.

Let’s get closer, I can’t hear a thing from here”, Verok suggests. Everyone starts to move a bit closer to the house. The woman looks at the motion beyond Grommish, her eyes widen as they settle on the Dragonborn.

Grommish notices her gaze. “It’s fine Ms. Clairidge, they are my friends. They are with me”, they hear Grommish telling the woman, as they get closer. “That is Verok, and yes he is a Drgonborn”.

The woman looks back at Grommish and sadness seems to creep back in her eyes.

As I was saying Ms. Clairidge, Yolanda and I are still investigating the disappearance of your son. We caught Mad-Eye the hermit but it seems it was a false lead”. Krowley notices that Yolanda looks bored of all this talk and her hand slides along with her bow. The woman dabs her eye with the edge of her shawl and nods.

Ms. Clairidge, I have a favor to ask. I know it is painful for you to recall, but I do wish if you could tell us one more time how did your son disappear”, Grommish requests in the friendliest way possible.

Well, as I told you before”, her voice quivers, “after the day’s work, my husband and my son came back in the house for supper. They both looked tired from tilling the fields and getting ready for the next harvest season. The supper was a quiet affair, and after supper, my son went to bed. And the next morning, he was gone. Gone like the others”.

Are there any other ways to get out of your house, besides this door?”. The woman shakes her head.

Any windows in your son’s room where he could use to get out?”. She again shakes her head.

And the door creaks! How did your son get out of the house without you or your husband knowing, Ms. Clairidge”. Everyone is looking at the woman waiting for her response. Even Yolanda was looking from Grommish to the woman.

Ms. Clairidge’s voice gets agitates a little bit, “What are you trying to say? Our son was kidnapped … kidnapped by that hermit, Mad-Eye … or whatever his name is. My poor son, I wonder where he is, and if he is still …”. She could not finish the sentence and started sobbing.

Grommish looks at her patiently. After a few moments, she composes herself “As I said, he was taken, just like the other children”.

Ms. Clairidge, who are you afraid of?”. The woman’s face jerks up and she looks at Grommish. “Because you and I both know what you are telling us is not true. I caught up with Mad-Eye and he has not taken your son or any other child. Yes, I know, he was around your home when your son was kidnapped. He told me that he saw two figures walking away from your home that evening. It was a little darker so he did not see who it was. But he said one figure matched the height of your son”, Grommish’s tone was serious now. “Who are you afraid of, Ms. Clairidge? I implore you to please tell me what exactly happened. We need to know, so we can save your son, and other children who have been taken”.

And this time, please tell us the truth”.

The woman’s eyes tear up and she starts sobbing. Grommish looks at Yolanda who still seemed indifferent and restless. He looks back at the woman who stops crying, takes a deep sigh and in quivering voice tells what happened.

As I said, my husband and our son came back from the day’s work. After supper, my son went to his room. My husband and I were talking about how much we will be able to save from this harvest when we heard a knock on our door. My husband, David, was the one who answered the door. I was trying to see who was at the door, but my husband was blocking my view. All I could see was someone who was wearing a dark robe. Then my husband called my son. I stood up and walked up to the door. As our son came out of his room, my husband asked him to accompany the man. I tried stepping forward and asking him who is at the door, and why was he asking our son to go with him. But my husband blocked my path with his arm and closed the door behind our son. He stopped me from opening the door behind my son and told me later that it was the Dark Druid who threatened the life of our son. He also said that the druid told him that our son’s life will be spared if he comes with us. That’s all I know”.

Clairidge then drops on her knees, buries her face in her hands and started crying, “My son. Gone. Gone like the others. My poor son”.

Grommish kneels next to her and puts his hand on the woman’s shoulders.

Don’t worry Ms. Clairidge, we will find your son. I am sorry that you had to relive this again. I do not think it was the Dark Druid who took your son. Dark Druids do not exist anymore, for a few thousand years now”. Ms. Clairidge looks up inquisitively at Grommish.

You do not think it was the Dark Druid who took my son?”, she asks Grommish.

No, I do not think so. I think someone is posing as a Dark Druid and I need to find out why. We will try our best to find your son and other children who have been taken. Thank you for telling us the truth. Now we know exactly what happened and can do the right investigation”.

“If it is alright with you, we would like to speak to your husband, David, and ask him if he can give us any clue to who could be the person who was posing as the Dark Druid”, Grommish says standing up.

The woman stops crying and nods. She stands up and points towards the field in the southwest direction beyond where the rest of the party is standing. “David is still working in the fields”.

Everyone turns to look behind at a solitary figure working on the other side of the field. He seemed to be trying to stay oblivious to them all, slowly moving away. As he notices everyone looking in his direction, he stands up.

Hello there”, Carna calls. David drops the sickle and the scythe from his hands and starts running away from the house. Ms. Clairidge eyes widen in surprise and then she sees everyone running behind David.


JPS Nagi
March 15, 2020

I … am … home

36,000 feet in the air, flying above the Canadian Rockies, traveling from Amsterdam to Portland, back from our visit to India, I am wondering where is home? Amritsar, New Delhi or Portland?

Let me back up for more than three decades. I was born in the holy city of Amritsar, in a Sikh family, little did I knew that the home for me would be different during different phases of my life.

My early years were spent in my ancestral home of my grandfather, where our family dwelled with my uncle’s. His son is likely the closest of my cousin’s, having spent the most time with him. He was 10 years older than me, introduced me to Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson. Being the only child, I was spoilt. Being the youngest among my paternal cousins and oldest among the maternal ones, I was loved from both sides. My grandfather would carry me on his shoulders and take me to street vendors selling painted clay toys. My cousin taught me how to fly kite, and my dad taught me calculus (yes, I knew calculus as a young child, but that’s a different story). And my grandmother practically raised me. I was home.

As my dad bought his first house, we moved out of my grandfather’s home. I was 7 or 8 years old. The new home was alien a bit. I remember that I’d ask my parents to “Take me home” as they would put me to sleep. I missed our ancestral home. Over time, I made friends in the neighborhood, played cricket with them, and, most importantly, my grandfather came to live with us. The new house became home. I shared the room with my grandfather and before going to bed, I would ask him to “sing me a song”. He would oblige with singing “sacred hymns” or Shabads, which I would understand much later. He lived until the end of his days with us. That home also gave me the first experience of death. I do not believe I fully understood the gravity of it, as I was protected, and did not attend his funeral. It was maybe it was my parents’ way of protecting me. I also lost a friend to cancer at that young age – someone who was just a few months younger than me. My time there was not that melancholic though, I had lots of fun, learned to ride the bike in the neighborhood. I also started biking to school with friends from the neighborhood, eventually got a moped (yes those tiny things) much earlier than I should have been licensed to drive. I grew until late teens in that home, and the time came for us to move once to our current house within India. I think all three of us got emotional as we handed over the familiar sound of those jingling keys to the new owners. But were also excited to go to our new home.

The new house, where my parents still live, became my home for the next few years. My dad constructed it to home a decent size family. A jingling sound of new keys became part of our lives and we started to get familiar with which switches would turn on lights or fan in different rooms (we have way too many switches in each room). I did not get to live there much, because I left for studying engineering in Chandigarh and then move to New Delhi for a job. A couple of years later, destiny brought me back to Amritsar for two years and I was living once again with my parents. That was almost 20 years back, filled with some good memories. We bought our first car, and I drove it into our outer wall while bringing it home. I blasted classic rock music while occupying the top room in the house. I collected thousands of audio cassettes (my father keeps them as a memory of me). Got my first PC – Intel Pentium PC. And I dreamed of going to the USA. I also met my wife during those years.

My move to the USA was both less of a culture shock than a climate shock. I moved to cold, snowy Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the middle of January. My wife joined me a year later and a few months later, we moved to wet Portland, Oregon in 2001. We are now settled there. We have created our lives around our work. We found friends who became family. Got a house in 2007, became our home where we are raising two incredible human beings.

During this last visit to India, in November 2019, as I walked into the home in Amritsar, memories came flooding back. My brain brought memories of nooks and corners around the house. My muscle memories activated while walking around a broken floor, which my parents got it fixed, still, I kept skipping it. I started looking through the old photographs and fond memories of all the places I have been to. I saw colors in those black and white photos – the red seat of my tricycle, the stripes of my shirt, or the dress my mom wore. Vividly, I remembered the places where that photographs were taken – as an infant in my parents’ arms in our ancestral home and to see my kid’s photos in our home in Oregon.

As the trip was coming to close in India, someone commented that it seemed that “we were ready to go back home”. That made me think, where is my home?

Maybe it is at every place that I have lived or maybe it is where my heart lives and mind remembers or just maybe it is where I am with those whom I love and who love me. 36,000 feet above the ground heading back to Portland, makes me wonder, am I going home?

And as I look at the faces of my kids, I know … I … am … home!

JPS Nagi
November 30th, 2019
Written on the iPhone, 36,000 ft in the air, above the Canadian Rockies!

He-Man and Managing Your Universe – Five Management Lessons learnt from the TV series of the 80s

1024full-he--man-and-the-masters-of-the-universe-photo[1]Few weeks ago, I was surfing the shelves of a local bookstore when I came across an omnibus of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. My daughter, who was with me, was surprised that I knew about He-Man. Little did she know that I used to get up early on a Sunday to catch up on the show on TV during the 1980s.
As I look back, the lessons at the end of the show, which I used to find “interesting”, to say the least, are so relevant.
Here are five (plus a bonus) management lessons that we can learn from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

  1. Teamwork Works!
    If you ever watched a show, you will notice that the theme and format of (almost) every show is same – evil attacks and good triumphs. The good side or the evil side are not just one person – it is a team of people. Skeletor heads the evil troupe, and He-Man is leader of the good.
    Skeletor hatches a new scheme to rule Eternia, and attacks Eternia with the help of his cronies. Sorceress warns Masters of the Universe, who come together to save the day.
    Eternia is not saved by a single person but a team of Masters – Sorceress warns, Mech-a-Neck does reconnaissance, Startos provides air support, Man-at-Arms provide strategy, weapons & gadgets, and He-Man and Teela provide the raw power to fight on the ground. On the other side, Skeletor’s team does not work together, each one has their own agenda that conflicts with the others and hence their every attempt to capture Eternia fails. The same principle applies in our work lives. When working on a project, it is important that the team works together. Everyone contributes to the common goal and move forward. When a teammate needs help, the others lend a hand, pick them up and move on. If the members of the team do not work together, then the dysfunctional team will soon face failure.
  2. Alignment to a single goal
    In one of the episodes, the Eternian bees species do not get along with the bird species. Kings of both the species do not want Skeletor to overrun their kingdoms. They take extra steps to fortify their castles, however that does not help the other. In the episode, each (almost) lose their kingdoms to Skeletor. Although they realize their mistakes that they were not aligned and working together.
    Once they join forces, Skeletor is easily defeated. When working on a team, it is important to move forward “as a team” and equally important is moving forward in the same direction. Project teams have members from different departments and each of them bring their own needs and agendas to the table. It is needed that all the needs and agendas of team members have alignment towards the same goal. The ones who do not align to the common goal should not be part of the team; otherwise the project gets pulled in different directions, which will cause delays or worse, failure. When on the same team, work towards a single goal.
  3. Everyone is important
    One of the Masters, Mech-a-Neck, who can stretch his neck and does reconnaissance work in the TV show, starts to feel that he is not as important as the rest of the Masters. He thinks that even one of the robots of Man-at-Arms can replace him. Of course, the show predictably ends in him realizing that the work he does is important. At some point or the other in our lives, we have all felt or made ot feel that we are not as useful as the others. This is an extreme outlier case. Every cog in a machinery is important when they are part of the team. A cohesive team can work together better and faster than a team where folks have their own selfish agendas.
    When in doubt, just take a 15 min break, and recall all the work one has done in the past few years as a part of the team. You will find ample examples where you have stepped up and rose to the occasion and saved the day.
    Another important aspect is to understand that others are also equally important. I have met so many people who feel that they walk on water. Yes, they are smart, but when you fly solo, you can get a meteoritic rise that won’t last forever.
    Everyone on a team serves a function and is important, including you.
  4. Informed Timely Response
    Whenever Skeletor attacks Eternia, Masters have very little time to strategize to do a detailed planning. If they would have spent too much time in planning, Castle Grayskull would have fallen long time back. They gather information (Mech-a-Neck’s reconnaissance), assess the situation, decide on action to be taken and take action. In the corporate environment, we do not have luxury of endless time. The world keeps shrinking their times-to-market.
    There is a time to plan and then there is time to act. Planning cannot go on forever, and action cannot be without any thought behind it.
    When time comes to act, gather your wits & all the information you need, do an assessment,  make a decision and take action. Not taking an action in today’s world will harm your business.
    When you have all or sufficient amount of information needed to take the next step – decide and act upon it. Do stay perpetual planning.
  5. Looking back and looking forward
    In every episode of show, Eternia is destroyed by Skeletor. And in every subsequent episode, the people of Eternia are rebuilding their home. Home insurance must be very high in Eternia.
    Although it may be tough to live there, it shows resilience of the Eternians to learn from past, and then move forward. Man-at-Arms helps build barriers that are stronger and better fortified. That is a very important lesson I think. There is an old Indian saying, “Don’t fret over spilled milk”. I take it a step forward, “clean up and don’t let it spill, next time”.
    We all make mistakes and face failures. What is important is to learn from past and move on. It is very useful to develop a habit of looking back and deconstruct what went wrong.
    Sometimes we are too attached to a project to look objectively. In such cases ask a friend or a colleague you trust for help. Let them help you understand what went wrong.
    Learn from past mistakes, and take steps not to repeat them and move on.
    Moving on armed with new knowledge not to repeat mistakes is an asset that will prove very useful.
  6. Bonus Lesson – Leadership
    Yes, I did say Five lessons, but as I am writing this, I found another lesson. Every time Skeletor and his forces attack, Sorceress, who is the guardian of the Castle Grayskull, provides guidance to He-Man and Man-at-Arms to help steer them in the direction that will change the outcome of the battle. It is through her guidance that Eternia gets saved, no matter how bleak the circumstances. She is the voice of motivation, the voice of reason and the voice of guidance.
    And thus the importance of leadership – a voice of reason, guidance, inspiration and motivation. Leaders are always needed to provide the team with a vision of a goal for the common good and the team has to be able to buy into it. Too many times the vision does not get shared down to the team members. That always results in loss of motivation for the individual contributors on the team. Leaders at every levels of management need to share the vision with team members to keep them “in the loop” and bring overall motivation and alignment.

As a kid, I never thought that He-Man and the Masters of the Universe will have so many lessons, much less management lessons. As an adult, I see so many parallels.
There are also allegorical parallels of the TV series; that is an article for some other time.

For now, that’s all folks!

JPS Nagi
July 17, 2016

Patangbaazi & Rau di Kheer

lohri-festivalBeing brought up in the northern part of India, brings back fondest memories of Patang-Baazi (Kite Flying Competitions) and Rau-di-Kheer (Sugarcan Rice Pudding) to mind during early parts of January – along with the great festival of Lohri.

Punjabis, irrespective of their religion, continue to practice their Punjabi Folk Religion. Respect to the seasons and the natural elements of fire, wind, water and the earth is very important. Among such rituals, is Lohri – a festival celebrated on January 13. It is dedicated to the end of the Winter season in northern part of India. The day is also believed to mark the end of the winter solstice month, arrival of spring, and beginning of the Spring Harvest season.

The last day the month (per Indian calendar) is January 13, and the sun transition into the zodiac sign of Cancer (Makar) on January 14. Makara means Capricorn Zodiac Sign and Sankranti means transition of the Sun from one zodiac sign to another. The festival, called Makar Sankranti in southern parts of India, is the day that marks the transition of the Sun into Makara Rashi (Capricorn Sign) on its celestial path.

The atmosphere is electrifying during the festival. The celebrations involve the friendly kite flying competition in northern India, during the day. During dusk, the families gather around the bonfires, and sing folk songs eating tiny sugar balls coated with sesame seed (gur di rewari), peanuts (moongfali), and pop corn. These are also offered to the fire, as an offering for a prosperous harvest season ahead.

In houses that have recently had a marriage or childbirth, Lohri celebrations will reach a higher pitch of excitement. Punjabis usually have private Lohri celebrations, in their houses. Lohri rituals are performed, with the accompaniment of special Lohri songs. Singing and dancing form an intrinsic part of the celebrations. People wear their brightest clothes and come to dance the bhangra and gidda to the beat of the dhol. Punjabi songs are sung, and everybody rejoices. Lohri is a great occasion that holds great importance for farmers as this is the beginning of the harvest season for the winter crops. People residing in urban areas also celebrate Lohri, as this festival provides the opportunity to interact with family and friends.

Among the dying rituals is the visit from the kids from the street, who go door to door singing the Lohri song that tells the adventures of the Abdullah Bhatti (Dulla Bhatti) – Robinhood of Punjab, who led the rebellion against Mughal Empire during the reign of Akbar.

Food is another integral part of the festival. Sarson da saag (mustard green) and makki di roti (flat corn bread) is usually served as the main course at a Lohri dinner. Some of the men wait in long lines at the local sugarcane juicing machines to get the fresh sugarcane juice, which the women use to make a rice pudding (kheer). On January 14, the next day, this rice pudding (generally served with yogurt) for breakfast and lunch to indicate sweet beginning of the new year, and spring season.

Happy Lohri, Everyone !!!

JPS Nagi
January 13, 2014

PS. Some references were used from Wikipedia.

Memories of the Clouds

I have very few memories from when I was very young. Still some moments are strongly etched in my mind.

When I was couple of years old, my grandfather, whom I remember wearing only white garb, used to carry me on his shoulders, walk couple of miles and to take me to a local potter who made toys out of clay. These toys were molded by hand and painted in the shapes of animals – parrots, dogs, lions, cats, or rabbits. All the toys were painted in bright colors, like reds, blues, yellow, orange, green or black. They would capture my imagination at that age.

Bapu ji, as I fondly called my grandfather, would get me a new toy, and then we would walk back home. The toy, being made from clay, would invariably break within couple of days and he would take me back to get a new one. So this small journey would happen every week.

Time would fly while riding his shoulders, listening to him humming a hymn, the periodic rhythm of his gait, and desire of getting a new toy. We would reach the potter, and I used to choose one of the toy animals. As much as the journey to the potter would be filled with excitement of getting a new toy, the journey walking back home used to be filled with happiness of holding it in my hand.

My eyes would look up in the skies, and I would try to find a cloud, shaped like the toy I just got. As soon as I would find some decipherable shape, I would point to the cloud and shout “Bapu ji, look there is a cat”. He would stop, shade his eyes using his wrinkled hand, and look up. He always agreed with me on the shape of the cloud. He would then tickle my feet, break my gaze from the sky and start to walk again, as I would giggle with tickles.

As I got older and heavier, he would hold my hand, so I could walk along. The moment I would step out of the house, I used to tell him that I would get tired. He would implore me to walk a little further, till the end of the street, where he would promise to pick me up. As we would reach there, he would ask me to go a little further. Humming hymns, pointing to new shapes of the clouds, he would keep me distracted from not feeling tired. Before I knew it, I would have a new toy in my hand, and I would pull on his hand making him go faster. Hopping, skipping, pulling on his hand, he never let go of my hand. We would keep looking for new shapes in the skies.

Summers were hot, so we would sleep on the terraces. The sun would wind down, bringing in a cooler dusk. The sky would get shades of orange, red and purple. I would lie down on the terrace with my parents, or grandparents, or uncles, or aunts, or cousins, and watch those clouds as they float by. Constant changing clouds would result in innocent arguments about their shapes. I would call some shape a horse; my cousin would say that it is a dog. The wind would melt away the white elephant before my aunt would make out its trunk or tail. And sometimes the rain clouds would appear and start pouring as everyone would rush downstairs.

While lying under the skies, I would slip into the dreams of floating with the clouds. I would never know when my father carried me to my bed on the terrace, or when my mother would tuck me in. The bird calls at the break of dawn and my mom’s calling would wake me up. The slanting rays of the sun would hit the eyes. Through peeking eyelids, the white and grey clouds would be floating against yellow or red sky.

Maybe these memories are the reason that every camera that I have ever owned, seem to turn itself up to the heavens. I am still looking for those shapes in the clouds that I used to as a kid. The blue skies seem so far away, yet it seems like so close. It carries all the memories from my childhood in its vastness – of people who were, people who are; for the people who will be.

All I have to do is just reach out.

Jatinder PS Nagi
May 25, 2012

Does the Universe talk back to you?

A good man once told me stories of two people and how they handle life’s problems, and decisions.

One of them prays and there is a method to his praying. While standing on a crossroads of a difficult decision in life, this person would turn his attention to God. He lights a candle, writes his problem on a small piece of paper, prays to get an answer, and then burns the piece of paper in the flame of that candle. In doing so, this person feels he is connecting to God and the rising smoke from burning this candle is taking his problem up to someone who will show him the way. As the smoke rises, he clears his mind of the problem, and waits for an answer or sign from Him. And every time, he has been given the answer or gets a sign from God, and feels that He has never been let down.

The second person the good man met, uses similar technique in resolving and facing his life’s problems. This person, sits down and quiets his mind – a sort of meditative state, if you may. While in this state, he thinks about the decision or the problem he is facing in life, and imagines himself standing on a beach. Then he makes a snowball of the problem, (or wraps his problem inside a snowball). With the full force, he then throws the snowball of his problem in the ocean, and watches it melt away as it is floating away from him. After a while, he starts to see the solution to his problem present itself. Our second person too feels that he has never been let down.

The good man met these people at different places and in different times of their lives. What makes this most interesting is the fact that the first person is a devout Christian, and the second is an Atheist. However, in both cases, you can see that there is a similarity in the way they approach a problem or decision in their lives. They both take their problems, and separate themselves from the problem. In the first case, writing the problem on a piece of paper is a way to take the problem out of your system. In the second case, the person imagines, in a quieted state, that he is taking his problem out of his mind and wrapping it in a snowball. Then they both send their problem to someone that they feel will provide help with an answer – towards God, or towards the world or universe, and wait for the solution to present itself.

Our good man heard these stories years apart of each other. He felt overwhelmed (and a bit freaked out) when he heard a totally different second person talk couple of weeks after the first one.

When I heard these stories, they seemed interesting to me. After listening to the two stories, I felt that our second person is not a religious person, but he sure is spiritual. He feels or believes in the existence of a higher being or the universe. I feel that in both cases the answers are inside a person. However, a lot of times we are emotionally compromised, or we are emotionally invested in a problem that we do not see the answer. In these stories, I heard that both people would separate themselves from the problem or a decision, and they can objectively make a better, informed decisions, and thus never been let down.

The key to making a better decision then seems to be looking at the problem objectively. And the universe will talk back to you.

Jatinder PS Nagi
May 6, 2012